A Martini of Mixed Mental Metaphors

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Quotes of the Day

“You can see the rider serving the elephant when people are morally dumbfounded.
They have strong gut feelings about what is right and wrong,
and they struggle to construct post hoc justifications for those feelings.
Even when the servant (reasoning) comes back empty-handed,
the master (intuition) doesn't change his judgment.”
― Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
The Angel, the Demon and a crowd of Sophia-bodies are already waiting inside.
Sophia is unison-voicing,
"So Angels, you are the personification
of the tendency of Complexity to Store Energy in its very forms
and to protect that stored energy from degrading.
And Demons, you are the personification
of the tendency of Complexity to Consume Energy
and find ways to accelerate the Growth of Entropy.
You are locked in a perpetual battle
because your goals are not opposites but have elements of alignment.
You both try to increase complexity in order to achieve your goals
but then try to guide that complexity in sometimes opposite
but sometimes similar directions.
The ultimate battle between you will determine the fate of the universe;
the Apocalypse, Heat Death, the Big Rip or Something else,
hidden from us now but lurking in the Adjacent Possible."
― Sophia in Sophia, Angels and Demons, in the Metaphoriuminomicon
Our deepest, oldest brain components (and behavioral drives)
reflect our ancient reptilian heritage
-- what might be called, our Lizard Legacy.
Next, and wrapping around the reptilian core,
is our paleomammalian brain, the limbic system,
which is the seat of emotions
-- our Furry Li'l Mammal.
Superimposed on these two structures
is our newer, neomammalian brain: our neocortex,
which is our incessantly talkative Monkey Mind.
Last to evolve is the section of neocortex at our forehead.
With a left side and a right side, these are our frontal lobes
-- the seat of our sense of purpose, our Higher Porpoise.
[So this teen] got pregnant because the powerful instincts for sex
that are embedded in the Lizard Legacy part of our brain,
and which are awakened by the surge of hormones that mark puberty,
got the best of her better judgment — that is, her Higher Porpoise.
And let's give her the benefit of the doubt.
Let's assume that she really was committed, deeply committed,
to acting in accordance with her values regarding intimacy
— whether those values might have been outright sexual abstinence
or perhaps sexual responsibility,
i.e., commitment to use contraceptives and STD protection every time.
When her Furry Li'l Mammal's enormous desire for romance and nurturing touch
teamed up with her (or maybe just his) Lizard Legacy's compelling desire for copulation,
it is no surprise
that [her] commitments succumbed to lapses in judgment
for a very simple reason:
the frontal lobes of the human brain do not fully develop until our early twenties!
― Michael Dowd, Zoey 101, Brain Science 101, thankgodforevolution.com

Contemplation for the Day

Let us imagine

You are sitting in your living room watching TV and sipping a martini. On the screen, a news anchor is explaining that a massive car pileup on the freeway has resulted in many injuries. It is suspected that it was caused by someone following too closely. "Why don't people use their higher minds and think more carefully about the physics of the situation before they make driving decisions? If people did then they wouldn't follow so closely, and they wouldn't get into these accidents."

Your lizard who is also watching the TV from the end table nods. You shift in your seat and your elbow knocks your martini off that end table where you set it down just moments before. Then your lizard is holding it in her sticky tongue. Not a drop spilled. You realize that the lizard snapped her tongue out and grabbed it, but you didn't even see her move. You have to think backwards and remember seeing her tongue unfold from her mouth. Your mind didn't even have time to process the image before it was over.

You think about it. Your monkey who is sitting on the other side of you says "Lets see, Distance fallen equals one half g times the time since v=0 squared. Let’s see, that means that the time to fall was the square root of the distance fallen divided by g times 2. No, the 2 would be in the numerator..."

Your monkey is interrupted as your furry mammal pipes up from where she is snuggled up against your thigh, "Very impressive monkey! We are so good at math and physics and stuff. We make all those people driving their cars so badly look so dumb. And, on top of that, look at how fast our reaction times are. Lizard grabbed that martini so fast it was amazing. If it had been us following too closely, we would have maneuvered in time anyway. We are just that good."

Your lizard just nods slightly as she basks in the sun coming through the living room window. Your jelly fish reaches out of her tank on the coffee table and gently takes the martini from your lizard and puts it to your mouth. You suck down another sip of the drink and the grumbling in your stomach, which you had barely time to notice, subsides.

To the left of you on the back of the couch, your demon laughs, "Yes drink that martini up why don't you. Yummy stuff isn't it."

To your right, your angel says, "No, don't drink it. It kills brain cells."

You stop and look at the martini and the TV and your very crowded living room and you say, "Wait a minute, this is a mixed metaphor. Isn't my lizard and my demon the same thing? Why would you both show up in the same story?" You idly stir your martini.

Your demon laughs, and the evil laugh freezes your blood, "Your lizard and I go way back. We have been friends for a long time. We have done a lot of good work together." Your lizard snarls at the demon, not having liked the sound of the laugh.

Your angel is astonished, "Really demon? Done a lot of good work together have you? Ha! What about the time the neighbour's child jumped on that old glass coffee table and it shattered, and the pieces were about to slice her legs up? I got the lizard to grab her arm and pull her clear. At least I think it was me. Was it you demon, who saved her life? She is in university now isn't she. Taking mechanical engineering."

Your monkey pipes up, "Yes, as I remember it her masters project is the design of an autonomous solar still which can fly from the ocean out over forests which are at risk of fire and prevent forest fires. As I remember the design will go a long way toward reversing climate change by absorbing huge amounts of carbon dioxide in the growing forests. Oh, and fix the plastics in the ocean problem at the same time because the design includes an autonomous automated factory which will use plastics from the Pacific garbage patch to produce the stills."

Your angel laughs, "Good work demon."

"Don't cloud the issue with true facts!" your demon replies.

"So, my lizard can do good as well as evil?" You interject. You take another sip of the martini.

Your elephant who is sitting on the couch beside blurts out automatically, "All the parts of your mind can."

Your rider who is sitting on top of your elephants says, "Definitely, I have thought about it in great detail and there is no doubt that every part of your mind can do both good and evil. Let's not go through every example. Waste of time. Just take my word for it."

"OK now this is getting silly; how can my elephant be here at the same time as my lizard and furry mammal and jelly fish? My elephant is just shorthand, a different metaphor, for all of the other buried old parts of my mind right. I mean how many metaphorical embodiments of different aspects of my mind are there in this room?" Without thinking you stir your martini.

"Nine" your monkey and your elephant instantly blurt out at the same time.

"Whatever!" you cry out, annoyed that your monkey and elephant answered your rhetorical question, "And how can my rider be here at the same time as me and my monkey? I am my rider and my monkey, right?" You take another sip of your martini.

Your furry mammal starts to cry, "You are all of us, not just your rider or your monkey, don't disown us, don't abandon us." your furry mammal starts to sob.

"No! She is right," your rider says indicating you, "I am the one I mean when I say "I", I am the one in control. I am the one ... wait ... oh I meant to do this." Your elephant left the room and took your rider with her.

"Oh my god!" you shout, "How am I supposed to think straight with all this confusion and noise?" You give your stir stick another spin through your martini.

On a shelf beside the TV, a little Buddha statue speaks up, "Try meditation," it says.

Your elephant and rider ride back into the room and your elephant picks up the Buddha statue and tosses it out the window with her trunk. Your rider says, "We don't have time to meditate, look at all of the things we need to do in a day!" Your rider flashes your day timer at you but doesn't open it, "Trust me, we just don't have time. Now here; work on this Ken Ken puzzle to improve your mind." She hands you an entire book of Ken Ken puzzles and you and your monkey sit and work on them for a while. It takes a while and then your elephant joins you. A while later you find that your elephant is doing the Ken Ken all by itself while your monkey is talking excitedly about number theory and your rider is explaining to everyone why explaining number theory in this context is so important.

"Wait a minute!" You shout again, "My elephant can't do arithmetic, can she?" You take another sip of your martini.

Your monkey thinks about it for a bit and then says, "I think your elephant can do anything if we just practice it for long enough."

You find that you can look around the room while your elephant does the Ken Ken. You notice that the Buddha statue is back on its shelf. "How did you get back there?" you ask.

"I am the personification of the quiet mind." the Buddha statue says, "I am always available to take down and use." As the Buddha speaks to you, the noise of the angel and demon arguing and the elephant and rider talking about the Ken Ken, the outbursts of the monkey and the furry mammal all become background noise.

"How do I access you," you ask, "when all of the different parts of my mind are arguing with each other so noisily?" even as you ask, the demon yells at the angel and the angel yells back. Still you are looking into the eyes of the Buddha and the hollering of the angel and demon are only background noise.

The Buddha statue nods and smiles gently and you know that you have answered your own question. You access the Buddha statue, your quiet mind, by accessing your quiet mind which is the Buddha statue.

You sit quietly watching the Buddha statue who sits quietly watching you. You stir your martini again. Around you the noise continues. The elephant complains, "While you are concentrating on being quiet, I can't do the Ken Ken. I would like to do the Ken Ken. Why aren’t we doing the Ken Ken ..."

You ignore your elephant's badgering and are quite proud that you are able to keep your gaze gently on the Buddha. The Buddha smiles and nods.

A little while later you find that you are in an excited conversation with your monkey, "Perhaps the symbol for your automatic mind should be a badger instead of an elephant."

Your little furry mammal chimes in, "We are so smart. We can meditate and think about all these symbols and we understand these symbols way better than most people. It is good to be us isn't it?"

Realizing that you are fully engaged with your monkey and your furry mammal you gently return your attention to the Buddha statue. The Buddha statue smiles and nods.

It happens again and again. You find that your attention has been engaged by some part of your mind. One time, you find that the Angel is curled up with your furry mammal arguing with your demon who is hanging from the ceiling lamp with your monkey, "There is plenty of philosophical justification for just looking out for ourselves," your monkey says, "I mean, all values are relative."

The demon agrees, "Lets cancel our monthly donations to charity and use that money to buy a new computer. We can play Ken Ken all day with cool graphics and leave the big issues for someone who cares!"

The angel responds, "But we care. The big issues are what give life meaning."

Your furry mammal agrees, "If we cancel our monthly donations, what will happen to that cute little girl we support. We can't abandon her!" Your furry mammal starts to cry quietly.

But each time, regardless of the players, regardless of who is siding with whom, you gently return your attention to the Buddha statue and the Buddha statue smiles and nods.

Of course, you only do this for a few minutes each day, but it becomes a habit. Each day, you sit down with your martini and the Buddha statue and meditate. Soon you find that your elephant is helping you more often than not.

One day, when you are not meditating, you ask your monkey, "If the elephant can learn to do anything we practice, can it learn to be the Buddha statue?"

"I think it is." your monkey replies, "Your elephant, by learning to access the Buddha statue automatically, can make the Buddha statue accessible even when we are not actively meditating." the monkey keeps talking and you can hear it but you are also able to look over to where your elephant is holding up the Buddha statue in its trunk. The Buddha statue smiles and nods. "The problem is that we lose access to a lot when your elephant takes over like this. The links of cause and effect become hidden from us."

"Yes," your demon agrees, "we are losing control because of this dumb statue!" The demon tries to grab the statue out of the elephant's trunk, but the elephant lifts the statue out of the demon's reach.

Your rider speaks up, prodded by your angel, "No, we have to keep meditating regularly. It is how we succeed."

Your elephant winks at your little furry mammal who speaks up, "Yes, we are the best people because of meditation."

The Buddha statue just laughs merrily, and you look into his eyes and know that your little furry mammal isn't quite right. But you let go of the need to correct it. After all, it isn't necessary to be right all of the time. Your Buddha statue smiles and nods. You take another sip from your martini. You notice that El is sitting on his golden throne in the corner of the room. "Why are you here?" you ask and stir your martini.

El replies, "I am here to remind you that you can never have a full accounting of cause and effect in your life or even your mind. Do not worry about letting your elephant handle much of your life. She will handle much of your life anyway and any attempt to keep a full accounting will fail. There is simply too much hidden story flowing through your mind for that puny conscious mind of yours to hope to keep track." Your old jelly fish waves at you from the tank on the coffee table.

"But this," you indicate the crowded living room, "feels like an attempt to keep just such an account. All the parts of my mind and all of its divisions on display for me to see."

Suddenly the room is flooded with blue light and you realize that all along, there have been numerous little girls in white robes taking notes. Now they are looking up and Sophia is speaking, "It's that martini you have been sipping and stirring, Just One. It is full of metaphorium. When you stir it, you mix the metaphorium. Obviously, this results in these mixed metaphors!"

You put the martini down on the end table and push it away from you. The Buddha statue smiles and nods.

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